Consider this the evolution of Talvihorros. Over the past year, London’s Ben Chatwin has released new solo material and collaborations, has seen portions of his back catalog re-released, and is looking forward to the resurrection of others. And It Was So gathers the best threads of his previous work and amplifies them to such a degree that they yield his greatest work to date. The restraint shown on Descent Into Delta has nearly dissipated; in its wake is a thick sheen of post-rock elements and experimental drone, gingerly placed atop an ambient base. While these elements were always present in Chatwin’s work, on this album the cream rises to the top. Aiding him in this venture are a host of friends, including two familiar to our readers: Oliver Barrett (Petrels) and Christoph Berg (Field Rotation).
As Chatwin stretches his own creative wings, he finds inspiration in the book of Genesis, naming his seven songs after portions of the creation story. His “attempt to find order in chaos” is an echo of God’s approach to the primordial waters on the first day, while his attraction to the cosmos finds fruition in the creation of the sun, moon and stars on the fourth. The album follows an arc as well, beginning with untethered sound and proceeding toward order and recognizable ambience. If not for this clear overriding theme, this path would seem like an unexpected inversion; we’re used to albums traveling from cool to hot, quiet to loud, not the other way around. Over the course of seven tracks (initially conceived as a one-a-day recording), the listener is drawn from raging seas to a peaceful garden, and finally on the seventh day, to a Sabbath rest.
Gutsy is the best way to describe the decision to open the album with an eleven-and-a-half-minute song. “Let There Be Light” travels in darkness for an extended period of time, offering feedback and squelch in place of form, until form finally arrives seven minutes in with the arrival of drums and a clear electric guitar line. Yet while this moment may call attention to the creation of light, the strings that slowly leak from the center reflect the observance of light: the tendrils that conquer the dark. As the chaos recedes, the brightness draws closer, accompanied by a mighty wind. The final minute is reserved for light’s full emergence, a celebration of sparkle and beam.
“The Two Great Lights” is the most Petrels-sounding track, in that it makes great use of sonic weight. The emotional heft of the piece is built on the contrast between its soft strings and abrasive drones. One imagines the warring sounds as solar flares and cold lunar light; that is, until an electronic pulse develops midway through. At this point one realizes that Talvihorros really has evolved, seeming to settle the conflict between creation and evolution. On this album, at least, the two can co-exist.
The closing minute of “The Two Great Lights” and the opening minute of “Swarms of Living Souls” contain the album’s most intriguing individual sounds: the hard clank of a seaside buoy followed by the haphazard ringing of chime-like bells. The knife of the organic is clearly heard over the spoon of the electronic. One yearns for these sounds to return, but they are never heard again in this fashion. The bells that inhabit the end of “Sea Monsters” may be the same physical bells, but as the chaos recedes, they grow intentionally melodic. And it was so.
And Chatwin heard everything that he had made, and it was very good. (Richard Allen)